Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web Piercings

Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web piercings are all very rare and rather extreme. In fact, if you are even considering getting one of these piercings, you are truly one of the brave. The pain varies, and in fact usually there is minimal pain involved with the piercing, but the aftercare of these particular piercings is only for the stringent at heart.

Your hands are two of the most active places on your body. They are constantly in motion, they are full of germs, and they are very sensitive (all those nerves running through our hands help the brain process pain, pleasure, and temperatures). A contemporary phenomenon is getting the surfaces on your hands pierced. I’m not against these piercings at all, but more than most piercings, it is important you understand the risks before committing to the piercing.

Hand piercings are all surface piercings, so they are susceptible to the usual suspects – migration and rejection. Your hands are chock full of muscles, tendons, and nerves, so the constant motion of your hands don’t exactly work in your favor. Generally, the less disturbed the piercing area, the quicker and more successful the healing. With hand piercings you will not have the luxury keeping a hand “protected”. It will be exposed to the elements, germs, daily stresses, and abuses straightaway. For this reason, only get a hand piercing if you are willing to do the following.

First of all, you must clean it religiously. Your piercer will recommend cleaning it somewhere around three times a day with a warm saline solution – don’t skip this step! The saline helps keep the piercing site clean and free of buildup. You will have special instructions concerning which soap you can use, what moisturizer you can use, what liquids or gels you can’t put on your hands (Neosporin is always a no-no), ad infinitum. Smoking is definitely discouraged with a hand piercing, for the cigarette smoke that will inevitably drift around it will irritate your new piercing and prolong the healing. You must also be sure to keep the piercing site clean, not just from germs, but from dirt, trash, food, etc. Remember, you have a very delicate piercing that is being assaulted from all sides, so be careful!

Your lifestyle may have to change as well during the healing period. Besides not smoking, you shouldn’t be wearing gloves (they can tear the piercings out) or engaging in any activity that may put your hands at risk. If your career heavily depends on using your hands, you may want to think about getting one of these piercings extra carefully. Your everyday life will be affected by this piercing for at least a year – which is the general healing time. If you’ve never had a body piercing before, this probably isn’t a good one to start out with!

Now that the risks are known, and you still want to go ahead, here is what you can expect! For starters, don’t get pierced with a ring or hoop. You are just begging for it to get ripped out! Your hands touch too many objects everyday and a ring jutting out will get snared on something and it will be gone before you know it. Your piercer and you will decide if surface bars or curved barbells are best for your piercing location (which is largely determined by the shape of your hands, exact location, and lifestyle). It is not uncommon to have to get refitted a couple months after the piercing, for the swelling should have gone down enough to where you might need new jewelry to lie closer to the skin.

For hand piercings, the location can be almost anywhere. Surface bars will almost always be used, and the pain might be a bit intense. Rejection risk is high since there is not a lot of skin or tissue to penetrate, but with care this can be a relatively long term piercing.

Finger piercings generally don’t hurt nearly as much as they look, but these too have a high risk of migration. Generally pierced at the base of the finger to look like a ring, surface bars or barbells are used. The finger will swell after piercing, and is highly prone to infection, but by following the right aftercare and being super careful, you just may be able to make this piercing last a good long while.

Hand web piercings might be the most popular of the hand piercings – the webbing between each finger (especially between thumb and forefinger) is very thin and not hard to push a barbell through. It is also prone to rejection and migration, and infection is a very real possibility. This piercing should not affect your mobility (none of these piercings should affect any of your body functions), but the hand webs are major points in acupuncture therapy, so if you talk to an acupuncturist they probably won’t be keen on you receiving a piercing this area. There’s no western scientific evidence that piercing your hand webs will hurt you, but if you follow eastern medicine and science, you may want to hold off on web piercings.

All in all, piercings on the hand are rather extreme. They require constant care, zealous protection, regular cleaning, and even then it’s not a guarantee that these piercings will last. Yet, if you want to push the boundaries and your lifestyle affords it, you can try to get a piercing on your hand. For many people who successfully have them, it’s their favorite piercing!

History of Ear Gauging in Tribal Civilizations

A study of the history of ear gauging indicates the practice to be as old as recorded human history. For males, this form of ear piercing has been a symbol of status, while for women, in addition to being used as means of bodily decoration, it has also been employed to signify the attainment of womanhood.

Ear gauging, which is also referred to as ear stretching, is the stretching of ear lobe piercings to larger diameters than that of the original piercing. It is a form of body enhancement or beautification that many young western people adopt to look ‘different’ from the usual crowd. However, this is not a modern form of body piercing, since it has been around for as long as archaeological records exist.

In many cases, ear gauging has been used historically to indicate the standing of members of a specific tribe, and in many respects this is still the situation today. Stretched piercings have been, and still are, a reflection on the individual’s sexual capability and also their superiority over other males in the tribe. The larger the stretching, the more important the individual.

Otzi the Iceman is a prime example of mummies known to have stretched ears. This is the earliest known example of ear gauging, Otzi having 7-11 mm ear piercings during 3300 BC. It has been suggested that the stretching of the ears noted in depictions of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, may have been caused by the weight of the gold jewelry he wore, but this is mere supposition.

It is supported, however, by the fact that the Masai tribe of Kenya and the Lahu and Karen-Paduang people of Thailand use this ‘gravity’ technique to stretch their piercings. Let us have a look at the ear gauging practices used today by various cultures.

A. Mursi Tribal Women

The Mursi is an Ethiopian tribe where the women are obliged to wear plates in their gauged ears and on their bottom lip. About a year prior to her marriage, or at about 15 years of age, a Mursi girl’s lip will be pierced by her mother and a wooden peg pushed through the incision.

Once healed, the peg is changed for a larger diameter one. Eventually, the peg is replaced by a plate of clay or wood, and this plate is successively changed for larger diameter ones until the required diameter is attained – from around 8 – 22 cm in diameter (3 – 9 inches). Once these plates have been secured, she receives a higher degree of respect than those without them, and is known as a ‘Bhansanai’.

These lip and ear plates need not be worn permanently, but are an expected adornment during special occasions such as during weddings and other celebrations, and when they serve food to men. Today, young women can generally make their own decision as to whether or not they follow this tradition.

B. The Masai People of Kenya

The practice of ear gauging has been common among Masai men and women for thousands of years. In recent years, however, most young men have not been following this custom, although you will still find many Masai women wearing ear decorations made from stones, cross-cut elephant tusks, wood and animal bones.

The original piercing is carried out using a thorn, sharpened twig or a sharp knife point. Once healed, ear gauging is then carried out by wearing increasingly heavy jewellery that pulls the lobe down and stretches the piercing. This is the traditional way of gauging ears in the more primitive cultures, although many Masai today will use proper ear gauging techniques, such as their own versions of insertion tapers or taper spikes. Beads are a common form of ornamentation, although plugs made from bone, tusks and wood are also used.

C. The African Fulani Tribe

Fulani women from Nigeria and Central Africa tend to use smaller diameter ear gauges, and decorate them using large gold domes or hoops carrying earrings. A Fulani child will have her ears pierced at around 3 years old, although they may not be stretched until she is older. The gauges used by Fulani women are relatively small compared to the Masai and Mursi, although the jewellery can be larger.

D. Asian Hill Tribes

Of the various hill tribes, the only two known to practice ear gauging are the Lahu from Thailand, and the Karen-Padaung (Longnecks) from Myanmar (Burma) and also the Phrae province in Thailand. That latter tribe are best known for their neck rings, offering the appearance of long necks, but both cultures believe the ear to be sacred and the more jewellery they can wear on the better. By gauging their ears, they are able to wear the maximum amount of jewellery they believe possible.

E. Mexican and Central American Civilizations

In Mayan and Aztec society, ear gauging was regarded as desirable for males. There are many Mayan representations of men with flares and ear plugs (ear spools) in gauged ears, and the material used was indicative of the social standing of the wearer. Jade ear plugs were worn by the higher classes, while the rest would use bone, stone, wood and other materials. In central Mexico, the craftsmanship of the Aztecs is evident in the ear gauging plugs and ornaments of gold and silver, though the lower classes would adorn their stretches earlobes with shells, copper and wood among many other imaginative materials.

Ear gauging has been carried out worldwide, and among other notable areas involved in this practice are Japan, where the Ainu used ear jewellery made from shells, bone and a ball and ring known as Ninkari. There are many other cultures worldwide where ear gauging was a part of their life, and even today many people regard ear stretching as a fashion statement and a way of expressing their own personality and individuality.

Pop Art – A Quick Guide to the Basics

Some of the most well-known artists of the Pop Art phenomenon, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, were born in the 1920′s which was a boom time in the USA with money to spare and jazz music starting to make it’s mark. But in 1929 the stock market crashed and the US entered a depression that lasted until the mid-1930′s. Perhaps the most famous of all pop artists, Andy Warhol, was born at the beginning of that depression.

So these artists grew up in a fast changing world that went from boom to bust to World War II in little over 10 years. By the time the war ended, they were still young and during the 1950s people again started to have some extra money available to spend on the endless stream of new products that were starting to appear.

And it was the design and advertising of these new products that the artists were commenting on, and influenced by, in a way that no previous generation of artists had been. They tried to use ordinary consumer items in their work to encourage people to view them differently. They also positioned common items in unusual ways to make people take notice of them.

Other common themes in Pop Art were comic books and the famous people of that era such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, who will be forever associated with Warhol’s work. Warhol used screen printing techniques for his work and usually made several copies of the same image.

But what the artists sought to highlight was the way famous people were treated as objects in the same way as products were in advertising with all sense of their individuality removed. Although many pop artists were unwilling to give meaning to their work, and even those who posed questions with their art, left those same questions unanswered. Jasper Johns, famous for his series of paintings showing the American flag, famously questioned whether his own work was art or just a flag.

So what are the characteristics of Pop Art?

Just as the world in which we live is endlessly varied, so Pop Art used a variety of techniques but the common characteristics that define works as Pop Art are as follows:

Graphic Style: Clearly defined shapes and colours with hard edges such as the Lichtenstein comic book styles and David Hockney’s works.

Funny and Lighthearted: Rejecting the rather serious approach of earlier artists.

Everyday Products and Brands: including foodstuffs, cars and images from advertising and films.

Collage: and also different techniques within one work.

No Perspective: Flat two-dimensional works are very common.

Mechanical Techniques: silk-screen printing was used to create different versions of the same image.

How To Know If Your Piercing Is Infected

You decided on a body piercing, found a reputable piercer, and survived your appointment. Now your piercing is doing something unexpected, and you’re worried that it might be infected. Are these the normal signs of healing, or are you and your piercing headed for trouble? Read on to find out how to tell if your piercing is infected.

Any time your body is injured – including piercing – you might see the five signs of inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function. These are normal and indicate that your immune system is at work, but they can also be signs of infection. The difference is a matter of degree and timing.

Symptoms

Your piercer should tell you what to expect during healing. If you know what is normal, you will be able to detect trouble early. Let’s look at the possible symptoms of infection:

Redness – It is normal for a new piercing to be slightly reddened because blood flow to the area is naturally increased. Sure signs of trouble include redness that won’t go away, an expanding area of redness, or red streaks that track away from the piercing.

Heat – Heat also occurs because of increased blood flow and indicates a problem if it increases over time, is hot and not just warm, or just will not go away.

Swelling – Swelling is caused by a build up of fluid. Oral piercings are especially prone to it – a tongue piercing can take a week to ten days to settle down. Swelling is problematic if it does not go down as quickly as expected or gets worse. Your jewelry must be long enough to accommodate swelling. Otherwise, it is very hard to clean, and there is a risk that the jewelry could pull through the piercing and be lost under the skin.

Pain – It is normal for a piercing to be tender for a few days, especially if it is subject to movement (e.g. tongue, lip), or aggravated by clothing or bumping. Pain that worsens with time or is extreme indicates a problem.

Loss of function – An eyebrow might not have a lot of work to do, but a tongue will be slowed down by a piercing, and an infection will make this worse. A pierced body part that will not move or is too painful to move is not normal – you may have an infection.

Two more symptoms

Fever/chills/nausea

- Fever, sometimes accompanied by chills and nausea, is a definite sign of trouble. You either have a localized infection at the piercing site or a more serious (potentially fatal) systemic infection. Consult a doctor if you have a high and/or persistent fever, chills, or nausea. These are not normal reactions to piercing and you may need antibiotics.

Pus/discharge – Not every discharge indicates infection. During the early stages of healing, a healthy piercing will discharge lymph, which is just blood plasma without the larger proteins. It is a clear or slightly yellowish fluid that dries to a crust and is easily removed with warm water.

Pus, on the other hand, is definitely a sign of infection. It is largely made up of dead white blood cells and bacteria. It may be whitish, yellow, green, or gray, and may have bloody streaks and an odor. Yellow, green, or foul-smelling pus indicate a serious infection. Seek medical attention.

What to do

If you think you have an infection, contact your body piercer immediately. Piercers are often more knowledgeable than doctors, who can be prejudiced against or unfamiliar with piercings. However, if you think you are in trouble or your condition worsens significantly, you must seek medical attention. If you lose a piercing, you can get it redone – it is not worth risking your life or serious tissue damage.

Mild infections can likely be treated at home. One time-tested remedy is the salt-water soak. Dissolve 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of sea salt in 1 cup (250 ml) of warm (not so hot that you scald yourself) water in a clean cup, ideally a disposable plastic one for each treatment. Soak the piercing or make a compress with a clean washcloth saturated with the salt water. Do this two or three times per day, fifteen minutes per session.

Avoid antibiotic creams or ointments as they trap dirt and debris and do not allow the piercing to breathe. Do not remove the jewelry from an infected piercing. This could allow the piercing to seal, trapping pus and causing an abscess. Pay special attention to infections in facial or oral piercings – their proximity to the brain makes them especially dangerous.

Prevention

The best strategy is prevention; follow the aftercare instructions from your piercer. He or she will recommend a mild cleanser and a cleaning schedule. Never touch a piercing with unclean hands. Never use alcohol, peroxide, iodine-based products or harsh antibacterial soaps. They are much too strong and will dry skin, kill cells, and impede the healing process.